On the nature and destiny of Man–Christopher Dawson

Man “is neither flesh nor spirit, but a compound of both. . . . His nature is open on either side to impressions and is capable of a twofold activity, and his whole destiny depends on the proper co-ordination of the two elements in his nature: and not his destiny alone; for since he is a bridge, the lower world is in some sense dependent on him for its spiritualization and its integration into the universal order.” 

“The riches of the kingdom of the spirit are inexhaustible.” (62-63) “There is a point at which the world of spirit comes in conscious contact with the world of matter.  That point is man.” (63)  “Man left to himself is powerless to reconcile the antinomy of his spiritual and material natures.”  

Jesus Christ “is the restorer of the human race, the New Man, in whom humanity has a fresh beginning and man acquires a new nature.”

 “For it is only through Christ, the second Adam, and in the organic connection with Him, that the new humanity is to be built up.  By the vital activity of the Spirit of Christ working through the Church and the Sacraments, mankind is remoulded and renewed; the disorder and weakness of human nature is overcome, and the domination of charity in spiritual love is substituted for the blindness of physical impulse and the narrowness and evil of selfish desire.  The consummation of this work is restoration by the unification of humanity under the vital control of the Spirit of God may seem infinitely distant, since it involves the absolute conquest of matter by spirit, and the spiritualization and immortalization of the human body-in fact, a new world and a new humanity; but no lesser term is proposed by the Catholic Faith as the destiny of the human race.” 

“The Christian life, therefore, consists in the gradual reformation of nature from within by the operation of the Divine Spirit, which is the actuating principle of the new life, just as the human soul is the actuating principle of the life of the body.  The power manifests itself in the mind by faith, which is man’s participation of God’s Knowledge, and in the will by charity of spiritual love, which is man’s participation in God’s Will.” 

“Thus St. Augustine argues that all the virtues are nothing but love; Temperance is love reserving itself for God, fortitude love, bearing all things for God, justice love, serving God by well-ordering the things that are in man’s power, and so forth.  Hence his famous saying, ‘Love God and do what you will.'” 

“God’s Mind, to which he attains by Faith, is so far above his own that he is unable to see, he can only believe.  But already, if he gives himself up to the operation of grace, God’s Will moves his own, and he is drawn strongly and painfully to the denial of his own will and the sacrifice of his natural activities.  It is a common error, especially among the non-Catholic Christian sects, to confuse charity, or supernatural desire, with devout feelings and religious sentiment.  Charity, however, belongs essentially to the deepest and most spiritual part of the soul, a region beyond the reach of feeling or the self-analysis, and it is only indirectly and accidentally manifested in the consciousness or in the emotions.” 

“From the Catholic point of view, it is just as false to treat nature and grace as mutually exclusive things, as it is to oppose body and soul, or matter and spirit, to one another; for the union of nature and grace makes up the Christian, just as the union of body and soul makes up the natural man.  The supernatural is not the contradiction of nature, but its restoration and crown, and every faculty of man, whether high or low, is destined to have its share in his new supernatural life.”

“Whether we look at the Italy of the Renaissance, the England of the Industrial Revolution, or the Germany of the last forty years, we see in each case that the progress and wealth which are founded on individual or national selfishness, lead only to destruction and suffering.  A civilization which recognizes its own limitations, and bows before the kingdom of the spirit, even though it be weak and immature like European civilization during the Dark Ages, has more true life in it than the victorious material civilization of our own age.  There is no hope for humanity in science and economic organization: these are but instruments, which may be used for death, instead of for life, if the will that uses them is disordered.” 

“Civilization after civilization in the past have stagnated and fallen into ruin, because they are tainted at the source, in the spiritual will which lies behind the outward show of things.  The only final escape for humanity from this heartbreaking false starts and frustrated hopes is through the conquest of the world by charity-the coming of the Kingdom of God.” 

“Only in the saints, with whom the process is exceptionally advanced, is the whole external life conformed to the new inward principle.  In the ordinary Christian, the natural life goes on almost unchanged, based on its principle and following its own laws.  It is to this region that much of what we are accustomed to look on historically as Christian civilization belongs.  But behind all this the supernatural principle carries on its seminal activity and forms the embryonic life, which is destined eventually to absorb into itself and remake the whole nature, mental and physical, with all its vital activities.” 

“The Christian faith alone offers man a perfection which is not relative but transitory, but absolute and eternal.  The Christian faith alone has measured how deep is the need of humanity and how great is the possibility of restoration.” 

“Then the body, and with it the whole material world, will be brought into a true relation with the soul, so that everywhere matter is the extension of spirit, and not its limit; the instrument of spirit, and not its enemy.  St. Paul speaks of the material creation groaning and travailing in pain until the time in which it also will be delivered from the service of corruption and will have its share in the liberty of the perfected and glorified supernatural order.  The transfiguration of the material world is of course most vital in the case of the human body.” 

“Nevertheless without this final restoration of the body, the Christian doctrine of Man would remain incomplete.  Man was created to be the soul of the material world, the link between the two creations; that through him, as St. Gregory of Nyssa says, the divine might shine as through a glass into the earthly world, and the earthly, elevated with the divine, might be freed from corruptibility, and transfigured.”